The Disgruntled Dylanologist

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

A Dylanesque Adieu: “It’s All Over Now, ‘W'”


You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.

But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, at precisely 5:03 pm EST, a middle-aged man wearing a dark blue suit, white button-down shirt and a power blue tie stepped through a doorway, and walked down an elegant carpet-lined hallway before stopping behind a waist high podium bearing the emblem of an eagle, its wings outstretched against a royal blue background.

After taking a moment to acknowledge the appreciative crowd, the man smiled, cleared his throat and uttered the following opening salvo, “Fellow citizens, for eight years it has been my honor to serve as your president.”

Exactly 13 minutes, thirty-one minutes later, the man in the dark blue suit with the white button-down shirt and power blue tie turned and walked back down the hallway then passed through an unseen door. And just like that, it was over.

9/11, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Katrina, a collapsed economy—suffice to say, George W. Bush has presided over one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

You’d have thought the networks would have given him more than 13 minutes. Frankly, many pundits were surprised he even got that.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a recap of 2008 in which I paraphrased Bob Dylan’s enigmatic, surrealistic, ‘Desolation Row.’ Considering how well received the piece was, for the last week I had been toying with the notion of using another Dylan diatribe, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,’ to bid farewell to our 43rd president.

When I sat down to write my postscript to the Bush presidency, however, I realized my intended Dylanesque adieu had already been written:

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.

In those two verses, taken from the first and last stanzas respectfully, resides all the angst, all the anger, not to mention a good dose of mournful lament that American has experience for the last eight years.

But the connection between Bush’s farewell and Dylan’s acerbic adieu goes deeper than the lyrical parallels. Dylan recorded “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in Columbia Studio ‘A’ on January 15, 1965—44 years to the day of Bush’s final official appearance before the American public.

The saddest part, of course, is that it didn’t have to be this way.

Bush began his presidency with a 50% approval rating. Not bad considering he received less than 48% of the popular vote. But it only got better for Bush. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to over 90%. It was an unprecedented moment in American politics—the highest popularity rating of a sitting president. Then something equally extraordinary occurred.

After only four months, Bush’s popularity began an equally unprecedented, unrelenting 7-year decline. It was truly as if someone had pulled the carpet out from under George Bush.

That ‘someone’ it turns out wasn’t so much the American public as it was the people Bush surrounded himself. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Carl Rove, Alberto Gonzalez, Hank Paulson: each pursued policies that not only eroded support for Bush and the institute of the presidency, they pursued policies that eroded our faith in virtually facet of the U.S. government.

In his defense, Bush has become the lightening rod into which all of America’s disdain and disgust has been directed. As the Administration’s point man, it’s to be expected that the president would take a jolt or two. Yet considering the unrelenting, unilateral affront the team Bush assembled has made on every aspect of the American experience, it’s amazing Bush has hung on to as much support as he has.

Earlier in the week, George Bush told the press corps, “When I get out of here, I’m getting off the stage… one person in the klieg lights at a time. I’ve had my time in the klieg lights. I wish [Obama] all the best.” And while it came from an honest place, there’s no question there was a Nixonian ring to the refrain, as if to say: “You won’t have old ‘Dubya’ to kick around anymore.”

And while it’s probably not the last time we’ll hear from “43”, it is the last time we’ll have to listen. And I’m not sure who’s more relieved, him or us. But one thing’s for sure— we’re both better off now that it’s all over for ‘W’….

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

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January 19, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 4, 2008: The whole world is watchin’


Oh the foes will rise,

With the sleep still in their eyes,
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal,
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

In two days, America will pick a new president. The reality, of course, is that the man who will lead us into the new millennium has already been chosen.

Brought out of Africa, blessed in the cornfields of Kansas and baptized in the warm waters of the South Pacific, he came with a simple, prophetic promise: Make right a world that has gone decidedly wrong.

And while there are those who will dismiss this assessment of our next president as nothing more than bombastic hyperbole, there is no denying the fact that the press has anointed Barack Obama a modern-day political messiah— David to the world’s Goliath, the man who will save America, and in doing so, just may save the world.

The time is right for a savior. For the last 40 years, America has been in the wilderness. In March of 1968, Lyndon Johnson, covered in the blood of 50,000 men, was crucified for his trespasses in Vietnam. Twelve years later, a born-again peanut farmer from Georgia turned the other cheek when 52 Americans were taken hostage in Iran. But in ‘doing the right thing’ Jimmy Carter let a ragtag band of religious zealots cast a stone that shattered America’s resolve for years to come. In 1992, America thought they had found a man who could transform a nation that had spent a decade teetering on the precipice of Babylonian excess. But instead of restoring our faith in our better angels, Bill Clinton succumbed to the temptations of the flesh and he, too, was banished.

And then He came.

Little is known of Barack Obama’s early years. Once he answered his calling as a community organizer in his 30th year, however, he quickly began to change people to his way of thinking. His opponents portrayed his philosophies as radical, even dangerous. But he triumphed over his adversaries, and wrote of his trials in a book he titled, Dream from My Father— a memoir that chronicled a father who abandoned him at his time of need, yet someone whom he has always kept close, especially in moments of doubt.

Many are bothered that the pundits are so overwhelming behind Obama. Yet as any student of history knows, there are two sides of history: the right side, and the wrong side. But we are not talking about that pedantic, petty, “you are either with us or against us,” mantra the Bush Administration has perpetrated against the American people for the last eight years. This is different.

For years, we have been like a ship lost at sea as our moral and ethical bearings have given way to greed and gluttony. But the tide is about to turn, and the hour is rapidly approaching. And while the pundits may be on the right side of history, the pundits have gotten it wrong.

Electing Barack Obama as the first African American president isn’t about standing on the ship’s bow and shouting that Pharaoh’s days are numbered. It’s not as black and white as that. There are larger factors at play. And when the history books are written, it will become apparent that the decision to cede the moral direction of a nation to a man about whom little is known but much has been entrusted was never our decision to make in the first place.

What happens in the days that follow is…

Then the sands will roll,
Out a carpet of gold,
And the ship’s wise men,
Will remind you once again,
That the whole wide world is watchin’.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , | Leave a comment